The Detroit Lions are no stranger to losing. They’re no stranger to heartbreak. They’re no stranger to the combination of the two while playing on Thanksgiving.
No, it’s not surprising that the Lions lost to the Chicago Bears, 16-14.
Still, it was such a Lions way to lose. Perhaps no franchise in the history of professional sports has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory more than the Lions.
While it counts as just one loss in the standings, this one felt like an even more significant blow for Detroit.
This may have been Detroit’s best chance to come away with a win
Consider the team Detroit had the good fortune to host this Thanksgiving. The Bears came into the contest on a five-game losing streak, and there were rumors and reports that head coach Matt Nagy was told he’d be fired after the game. Down starting quarterback Justin Fields, Nagy and Chicago entrusted veteran Andy Dalton to bring home the bacon (er, Turkey). Though he’s been around the league for quite some time, Dalton is undoubtedly a few years past his prime.
Chicago was a team on the edge of disaster heading into this game. A loss to a 0-9-1 Lions team would have likely spelled the real end for Nagy, and it would have been tough for the Bears to recover from in terms of team morale.
Given the storm surrounding Chicago, this was absolutely Detroit’s best chance to win a game the rest of the season. It was a win set up for the Lions on a silver platter, and they even had a one-point lead that they nursed until the very last seconds of the game.
Ultimately, the team got in its own way far too many times and couldn’t close the door on Chicago.
The Lions ultimately beat themselves
Detroit was absolutely in a position to get its first win of the season.
The Lions had a one-point lead and received the football with 12:08 to go in the fourth on their own 10-yard line. It was an opportunity to run the clock and put some more cushion up on the scoreboard.
The drive started off well.
A 15-yard pass to Josh Reynolds was followed by a 19-yard run from Jamaal Williams. Two plays later, on 2nd-and-7 from the Detroit 47, a false start penalty forced the Lions back five yards. The following two consecutive plays saw holding penalties push Detroit back even further.
What looked like a drive that started with some momentum saw the Lions back on their own 22-yard line facing a 2nd-and-32. Perhaps not surprisingly, that drive ended in a punt on 4th and 25 from the Lions 29.
Chicago got the ball back on its own 21 and proceeded to go on an 18-play, 69-yard drive that ended in the game-winning field goal.
In totality, the Lions were penalized 10 times for negative 67 yards.
This was Detroit’s best chance to avoid total embarrassment
At 0-10-1 the Lions are facing the highly realistic possibility of going winless for the second time in franchise history. Detroit is just one of two franchises to ever go 0-16 in NFL history, and the Lions were the first to do it.
It’s kind of Detroit’s thing at this point.
Ironically, their one tie against the Pittsburgh Steelers will save them from being the first-ever 0-17 team, but an 0-16-1 season is still right around the corner.
Beating a Bears team in the midst of a chaotic week would have at least given head coach Dan Campbell a chance to prove that at least once, his bombastic coaching style can produce a win. Looking ahead at the rest of the season, it’s tough to see any other opportunities like this.
Next up for Detroit is the Minnesota Vikings. While beatable on paper a playing average this season, the Vikings are coming off an upset win over the Packers and could have hit a turning point of sorts. If they can beat the Packers, they can certainly beat the LIons.
The Denver Broncos are another team that looks beatable, but that’s a squad that went to Dallas a few weeks ago and blew out the Cowboys. If they can beat the Cowboys, they can easily beat the Lions.
The last winnable game for Detroit looks like a game against the Atlanta Falcons, but that one is going to be on the road, and for as bad as the Falcons are, they’ve still won four games this season.
That’s four more wins than Detroit, and therein lies the sad reality for the Lions. The unfortunate truth is that even when matched up with what should be a bad team, for all intents and purposes, Detroit is always going to be even worse.
Detroit has all but disproven the “any given Sunday” theory wrong this season. Typically, even a lousy team can stumble into a win or two in a league that prioritizes parity. Thanksgiving was Detroit’s best chance to stumble into that win, and at this point, even games against bad teams are easy to predict as losses moving forward.
In typical Lions fashion, they blew it. That has become as big of a Thanksgiving tradition in Detroit as turkey and stuffing.